Dance Review: Play Without Words, Sadler’s Wells

Truth be told, I am no real fan of dance shows. I do give it the occasional try hither and thither but it is an artform whose charms have largely bypassed me, but I do like to keep trying with things and so I took up the offer from a friend to take in Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words at the Sadler’s Wells theatre. A 2002 commission for the National Theatre, it is receiving its first revival here as part of the New Adventures’ 25th anniversary celebrations, but though it is undoubtedly a stylish and slick piece of work, I found it to be rather soulless.

Inspired in 1960s British New Wave cinema, it borrows heavily from the 1963 Harold Pinter-scripted The Servant to tell of a well-to-do young man who hires a manservant to run his household but who ends up controlling his life. But what Bourne has done is to double- and sometimes triple-cast the characters so that the story is told with multiple perspectives and the varying possibilities of each scene are explored right in front of us. It’s a clever move and one which offers much opportunity but I couldn’t help but feel that by the end it was overused. Continue reading “Dance Review: Play Without Words, Sadler’s Wells”

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Returning to the Sadler’s Well theatre where it premiered 14 years ago, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has become a massive success, winning awards on both sides of the ocean and becoming a staple in many a dance house, no mean feat for a production that at the time was considered to be highly controversial. I actually saw this back then as a tender youth, and whilst it may not have made me wanted to become a dancer, it did make me want to be held by a muscular swan!

Taking the revered ballet classic that is Swan Lake, with Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, Bourne refashioned it into a modern dance piece, retaining elements of the original story, about the search for love and what people are willing to do to defend it once found, with a few key changes: adding a considerable amount of humour and most notably, recasting the flock of swans from the usual delicate ballerinas to bare-chested men in feathery breeches, thereby changing the dynamic of the central relationship making it between two men. That said, this remains a truly universal story, the need for a mother’s love and the love of a partner can be recognised and felt by people of any sexuality. Continue reading “Review: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake”

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray

Just a quick review for this as it was a couple of weeks ago, and the run has now finished, plus there’s lots of lovely pics I wanted to post too! Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray returned to Sadler’s Wells after premiering in Edinburgh last summer, with largely the same cast. Taking Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as its source material, this dance drama updates the action to modern times, so that Dorian is now a beautiful model who becomes an ‘It boy’ who takes the London fashion scene by storm, the portrait becomes a giant advertising billboard and there are a couple of characters who have switched gender.

I generally do not go to much dance and so cannot comment with much authority on the finer points of the quality of the choreography, but I can say that I found it most entertaining. The combination of the at times classical dancing between pairs and the modern, almost pop video-like group dances worked very well, and there was a surprising amount of humour worked into the dance as well. My lack of dance knowledge perhaps made me focus more on the storytelling, and I find it incredible how well the piece did in relating the action with not a word being said. The only area that needed a little clarity for me was with the doppelganger: I wasn’t sure whether he was a real character that had appeared on the scene or meant to just be an alter ego of Dorian himself. Continue reading “Review: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray”